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Career in Consulting

Consulting consistently ranks as one of the most popular professions for MBA students and college graduates. Not only is it one of the best-paid professions for new graduates, it also offers you a broad range of experiences; the opportunity to work with a diverse range of companies and industries. Consultants also strategize on some of the most interesting issues faced by businesses today. It also promises a structured career path for growth and development.

However, consulting can also be a high-pressure job with constant travel taking a toll. The competition is high, and both breaking into and maintaining your position in consulting can be rigorous. So before entering the industry it’s important to understand not only do you have the appropriate skill sets, but also how well it fits your personality.


What is Consulting?
Consultants are problem solvers, hired by companies who need external expertise and perspective on how to resolve a business issue. Some consulting firms specialize on giving advice on strategy and management, where as others may concentrate on the technology side. One may be a “boutique firm” and specialize in a specific function or industry while others may be a one-stop shop with verticals covering all industries and areas.

Typically a consultant engages in the following activities:

  • Pitching. You have to “sell” your services. This could include presenting the sales pitch to a prospective client or helping market the firm.
  • Research. You need to compile data, interview people, and gather information on a range of topics pertinent to your current project.
  • Analysis. Once you have all the necessary input, you need to work on diagnosing and solving the problem.
  • Recommendations. There may be a number of solutions available to a client or none at all. Based on the circumstances and restrictions, you need to identify the optimal path forward.
  • Reporting. You need to document your work in a report and present it to your client in a logical and convincing manner.
  • Implementation. The final stage is to successfully implement the recommendation(s).

Industries Where Consultants Are Found
There are a number of industries in which consultants can offer their expertise. For the purpose of this guide, we are focusing on Management Consulting. However let’s also look into some of the more popular options.

  • Strategy/Management. As a managing consultant, presentations, spreadsheets and emails are your lifeblood, and your smartphone and laptop are your best friend. In light of the abundance of projects and clients, travel is not only routine but a requirement for management consultants.
  • Financial Advisory Consulting. Financial advisory consultants typically work for the organization’s CFO and addresses how an organization spends cash, manages debt, and issues equity for projects. Assignments can range from mergers and acquisitions to audits or debt restructuring.
  • Engineer Consulting. They are typically responsible for the design and creation of infrastructure. Governments are one of the largest clients for many engineer-consulting firms. Engineer consultants are engineers by profession, evaluate designs for construction, assess a project’s feasibility and social and environmental impact.
  • HR Consulting. HR consultants address an organization’s human resource needs. More specifically, human resources consultants are tasked with maximizing employee performance with respect to their employer’s strategic objectives.
  • Other popular fields in consulting include Marketing Consulting, IT Consulting, Internal Consulting, etc.

Skills & Talents Required
As you grow and evolve within your organization, the skills required will also change – the role of an Analyst will be different to that of a Partner.  We are focusing on entry-level requirements and skills that firms are focusing on when hiring consultants.

  • Ability to Multi-Task
  • Team Player
  • Strong Communication Skills
  • Academic Strength
  • Open to Travel
  • Work Long Hours
  • Open to change

A combination of both quantitative and qualitative skills will provide the right balance to excel in a job in consulting – number crunching, data analysis, forecasting and so on will help you assess the issue but you also need to convey and implement the solutions within the organization in hand with your team.

Is It Right For Me?
Before you jump into recruitment phase, take your time and consider these factors:

  1. Internal Evaluation. Take a step back and identify your strengths and weaknesses.  Does your personal situation allow you to travel extensively? Are you comfortable with excel or presenting ideas to a large group of people?  Look at the expectations the firm has and truthfully answer if those are a match for you.
  2. Do Your Homework. Even though you believe you have the required skills, aptitude, attitude that consulting firms are looking for, dig deeper.  Research the companies that you are targeting, as each company has it’s own ethos and working style.  What are their core competencies and policies.
  3. Speak to people in the Industry. If you have friends or family members who are consultants, talk to them about their experiences.  Ask them about both the positive and negative elements they have faced.  Understand what their career trajectory and if possible spend a few days shadowing them to get a complete understanding of the work.
  4. Summer Internship. If you are still in college or school, then spend a summer interning at a consulting firm.  This is an ideal way for you to understand the true dynamics of a consulting firm.

 

Consulting as a career provides you broad based exposure; it hones in on both your analytical and communication skills, provides a platform to work with a range of business issues, industries and companies, and the opportunity to travel to a number of new locations.  However, due to the diversity and intensity of the role, it can also be a very challenging career.  It’s important to thoroughly do your research and ideally an internship, before making your career choice.

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